Handling Stress

2011/07/05 in Health

Do you worry about the future? Do you sometimes have trouble falling asleep?


Do you smoke cigarettes, use pot, drink alcohol or other drugs to cope when you feel uptight? Is being popular or making grades overly important?

These are some signs of stress and if you answered yes to some of these you may be experiencing significant stress. This tape will discuss some different kinds of emotional stress and some things that will help you deal with stress.

A situation producing stress may be either pleasant or unpleasant for you. For example: having your first date with someone you really wanted to go out with can produce stress. On the other hand, not having a date for a big school event can also cause a lot of stress. Stress is the way your body responds to any demand made upon it. There are physical reactions to stress which could include heart rate, increased blood pressure, increased respiratory rate, higher skin temperature, sweating, muscle tension, etc. If someone experiences excessive Stress for a long period of time, they may develop any number of problems such as headaches, stomach disorders, diarrhea, constipation or emotional distress. It is important to remember that there are also other reasons why one might develop any of these symptoms.

There are other major diseases that relate to stress but they usually affect older adults. We don’t want to eliminate all stress from our lives, but we can learn to cope. Let’s look at some of the things that cause stress for most people. The common ones are overwork, fatigue. fear, hate, anger, hostility, physical discomfort, injury, expectations and pressure. Overwork is a common problem and usually occurs when people spend a majority of their time with school or job related activity. Fatigue can be very stressful because none of us is able to cope very well when we are tired. Fear can often overwhelm us but sometimes fear is a good signal to take a different course of action. Hate, anger and hostility can produce a great deal of stress. If anger is a stress producer for you, listen to our tape on “Handling Your Anger.” Physical discomfort can also cause stress. Being too hot or too cold, wearing clothing that is too tight, shoes that are too small or too high. Other things in this category include continuing to push yourself when you are sick, tired, or injured. It’s important to take good care of your body – it is the only one you will ever have.

Expectation as a stress producer may be pressures that you have placed on you. Internal pressures are ones that you impose upon yourself. For example, deciding that you have to make all As or break some athletic record. External pressure is something imposed upon you by others. For example, your parents saying you must make the honor roll if you want to get your driver’s license. If the pressure you feel is external, you need to talk about it with the people who are expecting more than you can handle.

There are two major ways to deal with stress. First, prevent it from occurring in the first place. Here are some suggestions:

1.            Plan any changes in your life carefully and be aware that making a lot of changes at once is very stressful.

2.            Avoid impulsive changes – take time to think about any decisions you make, but once you have made the decision, then move ahead without looking back.

3.            Try to prepare yourself for things that are going to make you nervous. For example, if you are terrified of giving a book report, be sure that you have done a good job of preparing it and then stand in front of a mirror to practice. The night before, be sure the appropriate clothes are ready, your hair and body are clean and that you get enough sleep.

4.            Pay attention to your body signals. Your body usually sends strong messages when you are stressed. Listen to those messages and figure out what is going on.

5.            Don’t over-commit yourself. You have control of your time and the ability to say “no.” Remember, you need time for yourself.

6.            Rethink your priorities. Are some of the things you do worth the wear and tear on your body and on your relationships?

7.            Do some work on your values. Do you expect too much of yourself? Do you expect too much from other people?

8.            Build support systems. Having people in your life who care about you is real important. If you don’t have people who are supportive of you then make finding them one of your priorities.

We said that prevention was one of the best ways to deal with stress. Another very effective method for dealing with stress is to use some kind of stress management technique. The most widely used techniques include relaxation, hypnosis, biofeedback and meditation. We will describe a brief relaxation process and hope you will be able to use it to reduce your stress.

Relaxation should be done twice a day if at all possible. Sit in a comfortable position with all of your limbs uncrossed. Eliminate distractions; take the phone off the hook if you are alone. Be where you can see a clock or watch; you should spend 10 to 20 minutes with this process.

Talk yourself through the process. Using words like relax, calm, peaceful and comfortable, concentrate first on letting the tension flow from your feet. Do this with each muscle group – lower legs thighs, slowly working up your body until all muscles are relaxed. After you have relaxed your body, count slowly from one to ten, and begin to imagine yourself on a private beach by the ocean. The sun is shining, the sky is bright blue with puffy white clouds. You feel relaxed and comfortable. Imagine yourself watching the waves as they roll in and roll out and you become more and more relaxed. It will take some practice, but at the end of ten or twenty minutes, you will feel refreshed and relaxed. Be careful not to fall asleep!

You may use only the muscle relaxation or only the imagery if you like. You may imagine the same setting each time, or you may use a different setting each time; find one that works for you.

You can also relax in other ways, such as listening to peaceful music. The important thing is to take the time, Sit down and let your body and your mind relax.

This tape has suggested some ways to prevent and reduce stress. Take a good look at what is causing stress in your life, take some steps to control internal and external pressure, and take the time to relax.


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